Weekly I/O #13

Weekly I/O is a project where I share my learning Input/Output. Every Sunday, I write an email newsletter with five things I discovered and learned that week.

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The below is extracted from the email sent on Feb 21, 2021.

1. Best ideas emerge when we balance the inhale of beer mode with the exhale of coffee mode. On any given day, coffee mode lets us be more productive. But over the long arc of time, beer mode rewards serendipity and intellectual breakthrough.

Article: Beer Mode and Coffee Mode

David Perell is an excellent writer. In this post, he talked about two modes of working: beer mode and coffee mode.

Beer mode is a state of unfocused where we try to discover new ideas, while coffee mode is a state of focus where we try to get things done.

He argues that traditional productivity advice doesn’t take beer mode seriously. Turning off the Internet, tuning out distractions, following todos are all coffee mode thinking. The world is oriented around coffee mode because it’s easier to measure and follow.

On most of the days in beer mode, we feel like wasting time since the breakthrough is unpredictable and we can’t see measurable progress every day. However, David Perell thinks “the fruits of genius are sown with the seeds of beer mode wanderings”.

In the famous talks You and Your Research, Richard Hamming said that, at Bell Labs, some scientists worked with door open (beer mode) while others worked with the door closed (coffee mode). On any given day, the scientists in closed mode were more productive. But over the long arc of time, the scientists who embraced the interruptions of open mode did more important work.

Highly recommend reading the original post since David Perell’s writing is just beautiful. Below is an extract of the post:

“The see-saw of beer and coffee mode is like breathing. Your best ideas emerge when you balance the inhale of beer mode with the exhale of coffee mode. Coffee mode rewards action, while beer mode rewards laughter. Coffee mode rewards focus, while beer mode rewards conversation. And while coffee mode rewards clarity, beer mode rewards serendipity.”

2. “It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” — Chuck Palahniuk


3. The value of being answered with “No”.

Online Course: MasterClass | Chris Voss Teaches the Art of Negotiation

Most people think the most important word in negotiation is “Yes”. However, Chris Voss argues that getting a “No” can be more valuable.

There are three types of yes answers:

  • Yes as a commitment (used to agree)
  • Yes as a confirmation (used to affirm commitment)
  • Yes as counterfeit (used tactically by someone who doesn’t trust you, feels trapped, or wants you to go away)

The problem of answering yes is that people may feel that every piece of information they provide is another commitment to be made when answering yes. By contrast, answering “No” can relieve them of the sense that they may surrender their negotiating position.

For example, we can ask “Is this a ridiculous idea?” instead of “Is this a good idea?”, “Do you think it’s unreasonable if we can both agree to take things in this direction?” instead of “Can you agree to do it this way?”.

Avoiding yes in favor of no helps ease the other side’s fear of commitment. Therefore, negative emotion is being deactivated.

4. Kill your darlings. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

Article: Kill Your Darlings

Kill your darlings usually means a writer decides to remove unnecessary sentences, paragraphs, or characters in their work. They get rid of the elements they have worked hard to create but must be removed for the sake of the overall story. What we set out to write is not always what we actually write. In these circumstances, we must have the courage to “kill the darlings” we have worked hard on.

This can be generalized to things like building software, making products, or even just solving problems. What we set out to do is not always what we do. Sometimes, what we set out to do is even not what we should do. When we fall in love with the things we build, it’s hard to see the flaws. The more time we worked on our solution, the harder it became for us to change our minds when other people challenge our solutions.

Therefore, we should fall in love with the problem we aim to solve in the first place, instead of the solution we have spent time on time to build.

5. “Let’s grab a beer” is never just about the beer.

Video: Let’s Grab a Beer | Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl LV Commercial | :90

Lovely commercial.

That’s it. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it. If you would like to receive the content every Sunday, sign up below 😎




Voracious learner | Software developer | Cornell Tech student | Better Medium Stats: bit.ly/2RH8Jsf | Medium Articles List: chengweihu.com/blog

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Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維

Cheng-Wei Hu | 胡程維

Voracious learner | Software developer | Cornell Tech student | Better Medium Stats: bit.ly/2RH8Jsf | Medium Articles List: chengweihu.com/blog

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